Pushing To The Edge

posted in: Blog, Uncategorized | 2

When Einstein had the insight that acceleration and gravity were the same force he used a visual metaphor. Imagine a person suspended within a box in weightless space. They would feel no gravity unless the box was pulled then (just as we experience G-forces when pushed against our seat as a jet takes off) the person in the box would experience the weight of their body being pressed against the floor (just as our body experiences our weight against the floor right now). Let’s apply this concept to compositional design.

We might also remember what Professor Hawking said about objects approaching a black hole. The get stretched and flattened. Their atomic structure flattens out  against the walls of the black hole as they descend with severe acceleration/gravity.  3D Information gets pressed flat against the sides of the swallowing black hole.

In painting we are already working with 2 dimensions. If we imagine the information within the picture plane being pressed against the edges of the picture we then hollow out the content in the middle. This gives us a novel compositional form and, oddly enough this is what happened as Renaissance artists painted domed church ceiling. The narrative information clings to the perimeter while the center is filled with light.

When Gian Battista Tiepolo painted ceilings in the 17th century he hollowed out the middle of the picture plane and pressed the information against the edges as you see in example 1.

Example 1.18th century study for a ceiling painting by Tiepolo,

Long before Tiepolo’s ceilings in 1500 artists/artisans were encircling the center of their work with a supporting cast while the center held the theme such as a life-giving fountain as in example 2.

Example 2. French tapestry from 1500,

Example 3 presents Martin Scaffner’s wooden table top, “Heavenly Universe” as  a  design with its information pressed against its four sides while the unencumbered center presents space.

Example 3, Martin Scaffner’s table top, Heavenly Universe, 1533.

My example 7, “Inverted Sky”  presents a design-concept similar to Martin Scaffner’s.  The sky occupies the middle space in the form of a painted reflection while the four sides are occupied by flora and reflected flora. To create this image I layered, combined and blended two photos of different ponds as you see in examples 4 through 6. Example 7 presents my painting.

Example 4. First pond photo with reflected sky,

Example 5. Second pond photo with reflected sky,

Example 6. 3rd photo: the combined photos using cloning and blending to help with their unification.

Example 7. My subsequent painting, “Inverted Sky”,

I applied this same compositional idea to painting the interior of New York’s Grand Central Terminal.  Using architecture as edge-framing for the center of the image I developed the paintings seen in examples 8 and 9.

Example 8, Grand Central Station, Walking Into Light, 36×36,

Example 9, Grand Central Station, Walking Toward Light, 48×48,

I have a variety of other workshops coming up. The first weekend in June I will be at  the Lyme Arts Association with a two day plein-air workshop. “Techniques of The Masters” June 1 and 2, 2019. To register call 860 434 7802

In July (18, 19, and 20) I will conduct a studio workshop on Nantucket with the Nantucket Arts Association. “Natural Elements” a 3 day studio workshop with optional photo walks, July 18,19, and 20, 2019. Call 508 228 9700.




2 Responses

  1. Esther Sodani

    Thank you for sharing this composition used by the old masters. I always wondered the reasoning behind those painting that look so crowded. Now I know thanks to the clear explanation in your blog. I love reading it every time you post, I always learn something new.

  2. Vesna Matthies

    Hello ! dear David, if you ever give a workshop in Hamburg (Germany) please let me know..
    Kind regards,
    Vesna Matthies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *